To support the developmental demands of a growing child or teen, parents should ensure that they are consuming a healthy diet the meets their nutritional needs.
While youth athletes are always on the go and lead busy lives that juggle athletics, academics, and social activities, it shouldn’t be an excuse to rely on fast food or unhealthy quick fixes. Reliance on junk food, snacks, and sugary beverages, while convenient, will not support the nutritional requirements of someone who regularly participates in physical activity. It may even cause them to slow down and perform poorly.
In fact, because the physical demands of the student-athlete lifestyle, they should be most concerned about their nutrition. The right foods and drink can have a significant impact on their athletic performance, affecting everything from endurance and focus.
Here is a quick guide to what a youth athlete’s diet should involve:
Carbs are essential for energy. Athletes need to consume more carbs than the average person. Carbs are a primary energy source, improving athletic performance and delaying fatigue. Good carbs include whole grain bread, cereal, pasta, potatoes, and crackers.
Athletes should always be practicing proper hydration. They should know how to hydrate adequately before, during, and after a game or practice. Guide them not to rely on sugary sports drink but to choose water which will be a far better job at both quenching their thirst and keeping them well-hydrated.
Fats are vital to the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E, and K. These fatty acids protect vital organs and provide the body with insulation needed to regulate body temperature. And they provide the body with what it needs to drive activity. Good sources of healthy fats are poultry, lean meat, fish, nuts, dairy products, olive and canola oils.
Proteins are essential for helping the body repair itself. There’s been much focus on the need for athletes to consume a lot of protein; however, it should still be eaten in the right proportions and be accompanied with healthy servings of carbs, fruits, and vegetables. Good protein sources are meat, poultry, Greek yogurt, beans, eggs, nuts, milk, and seeds.
Calcium helps fortify bones which athletes depend on. It is also crucial for protection against stress fractures. It plays a role in normal blood clotting when injury occurs and helps nerve signals be transmitted. Calcium can primarily be found in dairy products such as low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese.
When it comes to sports nutrition, it’s key that athletes remember their portioning. Meals should be balanced. When you eat is just as important as what you eat. Therefore, parents of youth athletes should be supporting their athletic needs by also helping them make better decisions about their diets. Explain why it’s important not to skip breakfast. Keep them from snacking on junk food in between major meals by stocking the kitchen and pantry with healthy snacks. For all junk food that kids love such as chips, chocolate, sweet gummies, there are alternatives such as baked homemade chips, trail mix with dark chocolate chips, or even homemade fruit roll-up made with real fruit.
Thousands of youth sports organizations exist all across the country. They cater to all sports and come in all sizes. Some are well-funded and sponsored while others need the collective efforts of its community to ensure that it thrives. Big or small, youth sports leagues all have a common goal – to ensure that young athletes have fun playing sports in a safe environment that promotes sportsmanship.
For any youth sports organization to be successful, league administrators must be proactive. Here are 6 tips for sports league admins to achieve success:
Provide Online Registration Option
Registration doesn’t need to be a chaotic time, especially in this digital age. Streamline the process by giving parents the option to register their child online and conveniently pay with credit cards. Invest in online league administration software that not only allows for online registration and payments but helps you manage the teams’ scheduling, results, stats, and communication of your league.
Coaches don’t have to do everything. In fact, many parents look for ways to become more involved. Delegate tasks to parents such as making snacks, organizing team picnics or end-of-season celebrations. You can even ask some parents to be admins on the teams’ social media groups to ensure that the pages are updated with announcements and photos.
Not all leagues will need sponsors or raise funds, but it certainly helps. Additional funds could mean relieving some parents of the financial burden of buying sports gear such as shoes which can be quite expensive. The cash could also be used to give the kids prizes. Funds can go to better uniforms and equipment. It can even cover travel expenses for teams who want to compete out of town or state but worry about the costs involved.
Have a Dedicated Office
While you should definitely offer the option to register online, a well-organized office dedicated to the management of the league is still necessary. It will be where parents can speak with admins and coaches in person. It can also be where league officials can hold their meetings or conduct interviews with volunteers.
Ensure Safety and Security of Players
It is your top priority to keep your athletes safe. This means finding fields and courts that aren’t hazardous to play on and conducting background checks on coaches, volunteers, and anyone else who is involved in your league. Due diligence will ensure that all your athletes will be surrounded only by people who have the best intentions.
Promote a Fun Environment
Youth leagues lose too many kids every year who quit because the sport is no longer fun for them. The pressures of the “win-at-all-costs” mentality have caused many young athletes to walk away from playing the game.
As a sports league administrator, don’t forget what your league’s mission and vision are for these children who join sports looking to create lasting memories, make new friends, and enhance their athletic skills. Help them take away an experience that is competitive, challenging, and most of all, fun.
Many parents today hear stories about how Tiger Woods swung his first golf club at age 2. Then there’s Serena Williams who picked up her first tennis racket at just 4 years old and Shaun White who, at the age of 7, already had a snowboarding sponsorship.
Parents with young kids dream about their kids being the next Tara Lipinski who won a gold medal at the Winter Olympics at the young age of 15 or Michelle Wie who qualified for the USGA Amateur Championship at just 10 years old.
It would seem that the secret to reaching professional athlete success is to start your kids young. However, parents with big dreams for their kids may want to take caution and consider all the caveats of signing up a 2-year-old for professional lessons or asking a preschooler to give up playtime to practice drills instead.
There are enough warnings that come with having your child participate in a sport too young, let alone have them attend lessons and practices that already expect them to master certain skills to prepare them for competition.
There are some sports that kids can easily take up at any age such as swimming and gymnastics. These sports will still be viewed by the child as “play.” Learning to swim at an early age is not only a fun activity but a necessary skill that everyone should learn as early in life as they can.
Introductory gymnastics is also great for early ages. Kids as young as 2 can benefit from gymnastics as it helps them develop balance, agility, and coordination. Gymnastics also teaches skills that children can use later in other sports.
Kids are typically not ready for competitive skills that require more dexterity and capacity to comprehend the rules and fundamentals of the game until they are at least 5 or 6. Remember that sports like soccer, football, and basketball can have complicated rules that not all children will quickly pick up right away.
Swimming and gymnastics as a fun pastime at the tender age of 2 or 3 is one thing, but to expect kids to compete at this level is another. This is the part that many do not realize when it comes to famous athletes. While they may have picked up a racket, a gold club, or put on their skates at a very early age, they would not compete until many years later. The parents of these successful athletes saw a gift in their children and simply nurtured it.
Forcing a young child to compete at a very young age may lead to them to eventually resent the sport, burnout, and give it up altogether early on. The fact remains that kids will be kids and many of them will not want to focus on anything too serious, especially during a time while they still have short attention spans and haven’t quite figured out who they are, let alone their passions.
As a parent asking yourself “how young is too young?” – the best advice would be for you to think about whether enrolling your child in sports in more for you or your kid. Have they expressed interest in the sport? Do they have a natural skill that you feel needs to be cultivated? Are you supporting their dreams and ambitions?
Years of practice and dedication – that’s what it takes to be a successful baseball pitcher. While it’s true that some naturally have the gift. They didn’t reach professional level without polishing their skills and developing good habits to avoid injury and improve their technique.
Because young athlete’s bodies are still developing, they’re more susceptible to injury when they push themselves too hard. And that’s why any kid who aspires to be a star baseball pitcher should be establishing their technique early on and gradually building their bodies.
Understanding how to accomplish that may require the guidance of a coach or mentor who knows the demands of pitching. Here are 7 baseball tips for the young athlete who has ambitions to become a Major League baseball pitcher:
Don’t let the potential of fame and fortune overshadow the fun. You can’t dedicate yourself to a sport that you’re not passionate about. It’s important that you love playing the sport, above anything else. Learn the fundamentals first and sharpen your skills next. Remember that it’s still just a game.
Throw with Purpose
Whether you’re just playing catch, throwing the ball around during practice, or pitching for your team, always throw correctly and with purpose. Always throw at competition-level to help condition both your body and mind that you are going to throw the ball with control and consistency each time.
Get the Basics Right First
Start with simple movements and gradually move your way up. Basic motions will eventually build with force and precision. Technique doesn’t have to be established immediately. It sounds cliché, but you need to walk before you can run.
Mix Things Up
You still have time to grow and find yourself. Experiment with 4 or 5 pitches. Test them out at practice and find which 2 or 3 feel right. Once you’ve figured out which pitching style suits you best, work towards developing their level of accuracy, release, and speed. It’s better to perfect 2 or 3 pitches than be execute multiple pitching grips that aren’t as effective.
Don’t spend hours watching video of your favorite pitcher and expect that you’ll be able to perform at the level right away. Pitching demands patience, and it also requires you to think rationally about your own capabilities at this point. Don’t beat yourself up when you can’t quite master that spin or speed that you’re aspiring to achieve.
Focus on Accuracy, Before Velocity
While clocking a pitch at 105 mph is impressive, there’s really no point if it doesn’t hit your mark. In your early years, you should be more concerned about hitting your target than speed. Remember that a good pitch is a combination of many elements – not only does it have to be fast, but it must be smart and deceptive and yet, delivered squarely in the catcher’s mitt.
Don’t get cocky. The more you practice, the more you improve. This doesn’t give you the excuse to become arrogant or stop working towards your goal. Even professional athletes fall into slumps and only a strong sense of well-being and self-awareness can get them out of it.
As parents, we naturally want to protect our kids from heartbreak and disappointment. We want to shield them from harm and making wrong choices. But as much as we want to guide them, making mistakes are a part of life. Our children need to fail in order for them to learn and grow. And we need to let go and allow them to make their own mistakes and sort out their problems if we want to them to become stronger and wiser.
Your child will experience failure in some form at some point as an athlete. They can’t always win, and there will be times that the loss is devastating. They may blame themselves or feel so bad that they feel discouraged to ever step back on the field or court. Your child’s confidence and self-esteem can take a hit each time they lose. Failure can make them hesitant, paranoid, and a bit depressed.
But as much as failing stings, those feelings after a loss are often temporary. With guidance and emotional support, kids can emerge from defeat feeling stronger. Instead of feeling fearful, they feel more motivated. They’ll come out of it wiser with experience after having recognized what went wrong and would they could have done differently.
But instead of dwelling on what caused the failure, they’ll take that insight and apply it to the next opportunity to correct the action and hopefully, enjoy a more positive outcome. And while it won’t always work, they build the resilience and tenacity they need to keep going and keep trying.
When kids experience failure and learn how to accept it, they recognize the valuable lessons that they can take away. This doesn’t mean that they welcome failure or look for ways to lose so that they can learn from it. It does, however, say that they are prepared and won’t find themselves debilitated by a loss or defeat.
It’s important for parents and coaches not to punish kids for their mistakes. There’s no need to take them out of the game or bench them unless of course their fault was behavioral and could cause harm to other players. Youth athletes will make errors in judgments or perform poorly. Reprimanding them only makes them feel as though that mistake defines them.
Instead, parents and coaches should use moments of failure as opportunities to offer feedback. Allow them to work through their feelings without being judgemental. Kids won’t always recognize the lessons right away. And they will need your support as they figure out how to forgive themselves for their faults.
Children need strong role models who will help them realize how failure can be empowering because it gives them life experience. Your youth athlete needs to be able to look up to their parents and coaches and know that the mistakes they make aren’t being used to define who they are as people or players.